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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) have become more prominent than ever before. People are pushing the boundaries of this technology and wondering what further applications are possible. With that said, there is also a lot of skepticism and concern about using drones for surveying applications. We’ve collected the top 5 misconceptions about drone use in surveying and explain the truth behind the myth.
1. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to fly over my job site.
Although this may have been true at one point, Transport Canada (Canada) and The Federal Aviation Administration (US) have been working hard to implement new laws that enable the use of UAVs in a safe manner. Transport Canada released new rules for recreational use. However, commercial use is a different story. In Canada, a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) is mandatory. This document outlines the details of what is legally acceptable and the conditions of the SFOC depend on the circumstances of the operation. It’s always a good idea to talk with your UAV service provider. As experts in the industry, they can provide you with the details of their SFOC and answer any legal questions about your project.
2. It’s going to take too long to do.
The process of obtaining the necessary training and safety certification can be daunting. However, once this is complete, performing a survey with the aid of UAV technology rapidly improves the time requirements to complete a survey. As a reference, it is possible to survey 60 acres in under an hour on site with a grid spacing of less than 5 sq. cm. What once took days or possibly weeks can now be completed in less than an hour. A UAV servicing company will likely have already completed the necessary ‘set-up’ work and will be ready to assist you with your project when contacted.
3. It’s too expensive.
Quite the contrary. The advancement in UAV technology has made it more economical for civilian use. Further, because of how rapidly the raw data is collected, less resources are required which translates into cost savings. In our experience, we have seen survey related cost savings of up to 50%.
4. I am going to lose business if I engage with drone surveying.
As technology advances, it is necessary for companies to adapt or risk falling behind. Think about what would happen to a company that only made mobile phones with buttons and not a touch screen? Or a company that only made rolls of film for cameras? Some Ontario Land Surveyors (OLSs) are back-logged with work and lose out on immanent business or simply turn down work because they can’t keep up with demand. Adding UAV technology to your tool-belt means more surveying in less time and translates into more business, not less.
5. I need survey grade accuracy and drones can’t provide the precision I need.
When it comes to UAVs, accuracy is defined on both a local scale and on a global scale. Local accuracy includes distance measurements between two point, the slope between two points, or the volume of an aggregate pile. Accuracy is limited by the resolution of the survey which, in our experience, is up to ±4mm for distances and <1% error for volume calculations. Global accuracy includes latitude, longitude, and elevation measurements. Accuracy is achieved by using Ground Control Points (GCPs) or Benchmark Points. The accuracy of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) enabled Global Positioning Systems (GPS) receivers to obtain these GCPs is what would limit the accuracy of the UAV survey. Thus, accuracy could be as precise as 1.5 to 3 centimeters in both the horizontal and vertical plane.
Still feeling uneasy about the use of UAVs?
Change is nerve-wracking and it can be difficult to stray from traditional methods. With that said, these methods won’t stay current forever. This is understood by a number of UAV service companies and they are often willing to provide examples of work completed or create a demo of your project. That way you can personally validate the results via comparison to traditional methods to instill confidence in UAVs as a valuable surveying tool.Read More
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